Some members of the Buddhist-influenced Komeito – a junior partner in Japan’s ruling coalition – are showing wariness over an essential piece of legislation for de facto casino legalisation in the country.
After December’s enactment of an enabling bill legalising casino resorts at the conceptual level, a second piece of legislation – known as the Integrated Resorts (IR) Implementation Bill – now needs to be approved detailing the specifics: how casinos are administered and regulated; the taxation regime to be applied to them; their location; and the number of licences to be issued.
“At any rate, [the implementation bill] should not be enacted at the [autumn parliamentary] extraordinary session,” a senior Komeito official said, quoted by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. The report did not identify the senior official but it added that some Komeito members were urging a vote on the bill to be postponed to next year at the earliest.
When Japan’s parliament passed in December the casino enabling bill, some members of Komeito voted against it after the party allowed a conscience vote, Kyodo news agency reported at the time.
Several investment analysts covering the gaming sector have said they expect the IR Implementation Bill to be submitted to the country’s parliament in the 2017 extraordinary session starting in the autumn.
Yomiuri Shimbun’s report – made available in English on Sunday via sister publication Japan News – stated that a Komeito project team was expected to start discussions on the implementation bill in September, based on opinions from the public collected by the government.
The Japanese government plans to hold public hearings in nine cities to discuss the framework for the country’s nascent casino industry. The public hearings will take place between August 17 and 29. The goal is to address public concerns about potential risks related to problem gambling and money laundering, according to media reports.
“I want discussions to proceed while paying close attention to various responses from the general public,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi was quoted as saying, when asked about the IR Implementation Bill on Thursday, the report said.
Komeito’s concerns about the IR Implementation Bill come as Japan’s government faces low approval ratings. Speculation is growing that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – could dissolve the parliament for a snap election next month to prevent a realignment in the opposition camp.
Earlier this month, Japan’s Office of Integrated Resort Regime Promotion – a body made up of professional civil servants advising the government on the IR Implementation Bill – delivered to the Japanese government a report featuring a set of suggestions on how to regulate the country’s casino industry.
Brokerage Nomura said in a recent report that a Japanese casino industry with “two major integrated resorts” could eventually generate gross gaming revenue of US$7 billion per year.
"The positive underlying contribution from each of our operating segments provides a strong start to the year"
Chief executive of lottery and gaming supplier IGT